For more than a century, people have flocked to Paso Robles to bathe in the mineral-rich waters that spring from the Earth's crust. Back in the 1800s, it was the Mission padres, who believed the thermal waters had healing properties to cure the sick. They were even encouraged to drink the water.
Your chiropractor might not recommend the sipping part - save that for the local wines - but a long, leisurely dip can certainly be therapeutic and soothing after a long day of wine tasting. Here are three ways to soak in these natural hot springs, from a remote, public pool to a day spa and a historic downtown hotel.
River Oaks Hot Springs Spa
One of ten natural mineral baths at River Oaks Hot Springs Spa in Paso Robles. (River Oaks)
A hidden gem in eastern Paso, this hot springs and spa is tucked into a quiet residential neighborhood and boasts 10 indoor and enclosed open-air tubs that are fed directly from wells bubbling at 117 degrees Fahrenheit (our tub was a steamy but cozy 104).
In 2006, renovations were made to elevate the six therapy suites, which offer everything from massages and facials to body wraps and waxing, while staying true to the simple, uncluttered landscape and prairie-style architecture of the neighborhood.
To our surprise, many locals we talked to hadn't even heard of River Oaks. Well, they soon will: Clavo Cellars is currently planting vineyards on the rolling hills overlooking the outdoor tubs. When the project is completed, you'll be able to soak under the moonlit sky and take in those glorious views while sipping on bevies purchased from the spa. Perfection, indeed.
Paso Robles Inn
Looking for an overnight stay? This historic 98-room hotel is the oldest site of Paso's natural artesian hot springs well, and 36 of the rooms feature a spa tub gurgling with those beneficial minerals. Renovated in 2005, the deluxe mineral spa rooms feature not only the pristine tubs - perfect for two - but decor themed to specific local wineries.
A deluxe mineral spa room at the historic Paso Robles Inn. This bath experience requires an overnight stay, but you won't be sorry. (Paso Robles Inn)
A real grapevine laces its way around the Ancient Peaks Winery room, while the Daou room features chairs made from the mountain winery's oak barrels. In addition to a totally private soak on your room's patio, guests also receive complimentary tasting vouchers at their room's winery as well as a glass of the featured wine in the hotel's Steakhouse Restaurant.
Franklin Hot Springs
Instead of oil, Texaco found stinky, mineral-rich water spraying upward when they started drilling the ground here in 1952. Since then, a small pond, about the size of an Olympic pool, has developed, inviting the public for dips and even aquatic fitness classes. The water remains a comfy 100.1 degrees Fahrenheit, while the swimming area is a constant 97.3. Today, Norm and Cindy Franklin own and operate the hot springs, which are open to the public and sit a stone's throw from a freshwater lake open for fishing largemouth bass and lolling on your canoe or small fishing boat. This is the boonies, so mind the mallards!